A look inside Fluff Fest!

12 mins read

Fluff Fest is a DIY music festival focusing mainly on hardcore punk, but accepting lots of different styles and sub-genres like pop punk, post rock, and a lot more. Held in Rokycany, Czech Republic around the end of July, this highly addictive summer camp leaves no survivors and makes everybody come back year after year. 

The fest brings a bunch of great people from all over the world moshing, stage diving and having fun together in a great atmosphere, spiced up with vegan food, workshops and DIY activities. Fluff Fest is a prime example of how amazing the hardcore punk scene still is.

I sat down with Michal from The Fluff Fest crew to talk about the 2012 edition, tease your for this year’s party and discuss all things around the fest. Scroll down to start reading.

Punk rock is there for us as long as we take it seriously and give it the respect it deserves. / Greg Bennick (TRIAL)

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Hey! Awesome to have you guys! To start with, I’d like to thank you for this year’s edition. Good times. What were your goals for Fluff Fest in 2012?

Thanks, I’m glad you had a nice time at the fest. Our main goal was as always to keep the festival the way we know it. There are a few key features we like and we’d like to keep for the future, as a kind of low-profile festival if I can describe it like that. More people are coming to the fest nowadays but we do not necessarily want to start booking huge bands, fly headliners over the ocean, or do expensive promos in the hope of become even bigger, etc. The other thing is our focus on non-music stuff, heavily into animal/human rights and politics in general.

We’d also like to keep on in the direction we took two or three years back with increasing the number of bands playing, especially local, Central and Eastern European bands.

What do you think it is about Fluff that sticks out the most and has the fans coming back year after year with more and more of their friends?

This might be hard for me as I’ve never attended the fest as a visitor, but I hope we can keep as close as possible to the atmosphere of a small punk club show, trying to book bands who might never be sharing the stage anywhere else, being open to all the differences in the scene. The location helps as well, I guess, as it’s pretty close to Germany where a lots of kids come from, and it’s accessible for all the Eastern Europeans as well. Not many US bands tour Eastern Europe, so for lots of people it’s a once-a-year opportunity to see those bands live.

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I’d like to start off with a bang, to cool it down later [smiles]. This year’s controversy number one was firstly the pressure to cancel DEFEATER’s appearance for reasons of patriotic affiliation and message and secondly the sick shit situation when the band got catcalled and whistled out by a bunch of punk anarchists with banners and flags saying “soldiers=/=heroes”, “oil=/=freedom” and “defeat(er) nationalism and militarism”. Were you surprised? How did you see all this? What was that all about and where’s the misunderstanding?

OK, I’m not the one putting the line up together, but I will try. We were ready to cancel them after we saw those statements about their vets benefit. The benefit itself was not a problem for us at all, but all that heroification of the US army fighting abroad. We had a long conversation with the band (and they got in touch with us about this issue right after their name was announced based on people’s reactions) and they assured us the whole thing came from their personal experiences with a flawed system and has nothing to do with them being patriots or nationalists or even war supporters. That was something we could relate to and we could respect. So, a decision was made and we kept them on the bill.

The set itself was kind of disappointing as they could have used their time to explain what they were trying to do with the benefit, etc. Instead they just played the set without really saying a word. I’m pretty sure it would have been extremely hard to convince the crowd that night but they had a chance they didn’t take…

I’m not sure if they were surprised or not, they must have expected something. Most people coming to the fest are pretty sensitive about those issues and US foreign policies make a lot of those people pretty anti-American. They should have expected this and they could have put more effort into clarifying their views and opinions. 

But I do not regret having them play, if only because it opened up this discussion – although it has been left open.

How was the band like after their finished their set? I’d be sad if I were them, to be honest. I mean, throwing cans at a band at Fluff Fest? Something must have gone wrong.

I only met them briefly while settling up, and only one of them. Wasn’t it the last show of their tour? He looked pretty tired. Of course, he didn’t seem happy with the show. 

What went wrong was a lack of communication. Maybe it could have come from us as messengers or the band or maybe there are people you will not convince about your view no matter what you do.

Were there any echoes of this event within the organizers crew and the activists?

There was quite a lot of emailing about this after the fest. Mainly people were asking why we kept them on the bill. The truth is that even though we organise this fest, we don’t feel that we should be the judges in these situations. Of course, there are very clear situations where we would not hesitate but this wasn’t one of them. I like to think of the fest as something that represents this hc/punk scene with all its pros and cons, and gives people space for conversation.

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How do you remember the first Fluff edition and the other 1-2 fests that followed? Give us some picture how did all look like back then.

We had no idea what we were doing back when we started. We only have a little bit of an idea now! [smiles] We just wanted to do a festival as we knew it from Western Europe in out home town. We booked bands and printed some posters and spent about a year in endless talks. Usually overnight, as I worked and Tomas was a student. We burned all the money we had saved, all the money my mum had in her bank account and hoped that some people would come… luckily we had a close crew of friends around us who helped us big time. This crew has still not changed, which is something I’m very happy with. There wasn’t much planning for the future – originally we only intended to do it once. If we couldn’t get the money we put into it back we would not have had any to do it the next year. There was also constant stress over the location in the first few years as the festival kept moving around Plzen, until we finally moved it to Rokycany. When we realised the fest could keep going we took it as an opportunity to change our and our friends’ lives.

Yeah, man, it turned out amazing.

Here’s another tough question [smiles]. Stinky, I’d say [laughs]. You issued a statement regarding two toilet areas and asked people not to use woods. I understand that more and more people attend to the fest, but “the toilet issue” is really a problem. Despite the fact it’s being cleaned twice a day, I haven’t met a person that was satisfied with its cleanness and not pissed off because of the lack of ability to urinate [smiles]. Will you be taking care of the issue next year?

We ended up in a fight with the toilet company in the last two years. I hoped it would be better this year and we made some changes people maybe didn’t notice. We moved the toilet areas closer to the road, so it would be easier to clean them up even if it got muddy. My experience is that it is not problem if the toilets are properly cleaned twice a day, but this wasn’t happening as the toilet company guy would leave without cleaning all the toilets. It’s hard to deal with them as they are the only company big enough to do this festival. No other company would even come to clean it twice a day… Anyway, we are aware of this, and it is also no fun to clean up the woods after the fest, so we will increase the number of toilets so we are covered even if there are some problems. But, well, it will always be a plastic booth with shit in it.

Having bitching around, I must beg you to put more trash bins in the festival area. It would make thing so much easier around the playing grounds. How much time do you need to tidy the place up after everyone’s gone? It must be a real pain the ass. Who’s helping you out?

We have people who clean up the place during the day and every morning. It’s a mix between volunteers and paid people. The final one is done on Monday and it’s usually finished on Monday. We have lots of people coming to help, to get their entrance money back. It could be anywhere between 50 and 100 people. Plus we have a solid crew of let’s say 20 people who are there to build before and take things down and clean after.

We want to focus more on recycling in future. We give people this opportunity of course, but the success of it has been questionable to say the least…

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Ok, let’s move on with the 2012 summary.

The food was delicious [smiles]. Did you increase number of your catering associates?

There was one extra stand run by our friends who have a veggie restaurant in Plzen. they did a benefit for “Svoboda Zvirat“, the organisation that has done the catering from the beginning. Those guys are pros and their food was just so much better! I had an idea about providing slightly more expensive but higher quality food as an option. It turned out that people would only eat theirs! [smiles]

It was a step in the right direction and the food must have a higher standard in the future. But we are still going to keep it fluff style, so there will only be caterers who work either as a benefit for Svoboda Zvirat or Fluff Fest itself. We do not intend to open it more widely.

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There’s a theft issue around the camping site for some time now. I know you took certain steps to avoid such petty crimes. How did it come off this year?

This is crazy and very disappointing. Thefts are both done by locals and fest visitors. We had a 24hr crew monitoring the camp site, so some people got caught but many people got robed. It is not possible for us to put the fence around the whole fest, and even if we only let people with wristbands in we’ve caught thieves with wristbands and hc t-shirts before. We can only warn people and let them know how it is done and how to protect their stuff… they are always after cash, cards, mobiles, cameras… pretty much in this order. Just put those inside your sleeping bags as most of the thefts are done while you’re asleep by people who either open or cut your tent. And of course don’t leave anything displayed in your car…

Ok. Rokycany was awfully treated with “graffiti” this year. You issued a statement saying that you pay a lot of money to remove it from rented equipment and buildings around the town. What’s relationship with the municipality in general? How helpful has the local community been in the building process? Do you have any problems with local authorities? Is there a threat to the festival’s future because of such happenings?

We paid to get some removed again. The town officials don’t care too much as long as we pay for it. It will always cover some pre-fest graffiti as well so they profit from it. Of course, we could have used that money some other way. The garbage company uses its oldest containers, they have learned that already…

Our relationship with the town officials is pretty OK. It’s very different to how it was in Plzen. Rokycany is a smaller town and they are kind of proud that something that brings the attention of so many international visitors is happening there. I’m not so sure about regular people from Rokycany as it is a pretty sleepy town normally, but well, not many concerns have reached us.

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What’s the future of Fluff Fest? Aren’t you tempted to go big, make the stages bigger, book bigger names, etc.?

I like the way it is. So the main stage will stay the same. Other stages might increase in number but not size. Let’s say the open stage was a pretty good example of where we want to grow. As far as bands go – if we feel like they are part of the hc scene why not, but we won’t necessarily hunt for big names. We might have reached some point where it is going to stay for a while, 70-100 bands on 3 or 4 stages and as much non-musical stuff as possible. Let’s focus more on making it nicer now (better food, shorter queues, cleaner toilets…)

The growth of the fest year-over-year has been completely organic. Having your previous answer in mind, how do you manage that growth to ensure that this thing doesn’t get too big too fast?

We do not manage that, somehow we keep doing the same thing and it slowly grows. So far every year was bigger than the year before, for all 13 years. Sometimes by hundreds, sometimes just by a few people, but bigger. We do not do promotion other than facebook/web and posters we ship to volunteers and give to touring bands. We also, I hope, have some history and a reputation that together should work out the way we intend – the right people will know about it.

Will MADBALL or AGNOSTIC FRONT ever play Fluff? [smiles]

As I said I’m not the one who books bands but it would surprise me if they did.

What will be the selection process like for the next edition? When are you planning to make the initial announcement for Fluff Fest 2013?

Tomas, who has always booked the bands, has his own system. I know he has some names he will aim for first. A lot of it depends on who will be touring at the time as well. Jakub, who joined him more recently, will book his weirdish acts for the late shows again…

As for announcements: probably later than would you like! I saw some fests already announced names for 2013 back in autumn 2012, that’s crazy! I guess with the large number of festivals there is today, they are racing to get attention. That’s not our case.

Any new stuff for Fluff 2013 coming up? Are you planning to range the spectrum of “beyond the music” activities?

Always, but that depends on what offers will come in. We’re trying to give people space to present themselves and their ideas, etc. and this is only semi-organised by us.

We are more closely connected to some who come year after year like the realita.tv people who monitor how animals are treated. So we bought that movie tent for them, etc. but a big part of the festival is always open to whoever will come and set up their stand.

A lot of the same bands perform at many different metal/hardcore fests every year, leading to some people complaining about the line-up being stagnant. Did you ever heard things like that about Fluff?

Of course. If you want to book 70 bands for a 3-day festival, how many options do you have? There’s sure to be a festival, a week from fluff somewhere, with 15 bands who’re playing at fluff as well. You have bigger names that people expect to play as they’re touring Europe at the time, but of course they would end up playing all the other festivals, because they’re just touring Europe at the time… We try to have a really wide range of bands when it comes to styles so I hope that makes us little different.

Why don’t you tolerate stage camping? [smiles]

Because it sucks! It suck for whoever is not stage camping. There are just way too many people there to let 100 “chosen” people to cover the stage. Of course, we could let a few smaller people sit at the sides, but how we do select them?!

We are trying to do this fest with no stage barriers and no stage security, we have tried for years, but the only way is not to let people wander around the stage. There are just too many people there to let this happen. It is unsafe for everybody as the stage is not built for hundreds of jumping people, it is built for a band and some equipment. Also, the damage has been too great and at some point it could sacrifice the whole fest. as most bands there share gear.

Apart from running the fest, what other projects do you run?

The fest was always connected to a touring company. So for years we all toured with bands. It got separated about two years ago but most people behind the fest still tour as their day job. I personally quit touring and I’m focusing on connecting the fest with something new, which I hope one day will be a venue. So apart from the fest, that’s what I do, working towards a venue.

Thanks so much for your time. I wish you the best of luck and every success with your projects including Fluff Fest. Anything else you’d like to say or add?

Thanks for your interest and patience with me. I hope we will keep doing the fest you like.

Photos by KeepThisMoment, Fluff Fest Tumblr.

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Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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